Tol Foster (Mvskoke Creek, Oklahoma) received his MA and Ph.D. from the English Department (focusing on American Indian and American Literatures) at the University of Wisconsin as an Advanced Opportunity Fellow, where he completed his dissertation under the directorship of Dr. Roberta Hill (Oneida). Before that he graduated with an honors degree in English at Oklahoma State University, with concentrations in Philosophy and Economics. After graduation he served as Assistant Professor of American Studies at UNC - Chapel Hill and Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Indian House at the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana in 2007-2008 before taking a position as Assistant Professor of English here at Marquette starting in the fall of 2011. Tol is proud of his work helping to create the major in American Indian Studies at UNC, and in helping to found the UNC American Indian Center and is excited to return to the place that Father Jacques Marquette first entered in his June, 1673 journal as Meskousing, but which we all know now as Wisconsin, home to more sacred effigy mounds than anywhere else on earth as well as the eleven federally recognized tribes that share this place.
Tol is revising and expanding his manuscript The Enduring Indian Territory: Oklahoma and the Relational Frontier in the Twentieth Century, which is based on his dissertation "Dividing Canaan: Oklahoma Writers and the Multicultural Frontier." In this project, Foster argues that although annexed into the broader United States as a constituent part of the State of Oklahoma, Indian Territory continued to endure through the cultural work of Native peoples. Further, this continued cultural reproduction of American Indian understandings of sovereignty provided not only the intellectual grounding for American Indian understandings within their own community but also - along with working-class white understandings and African-American claims - emerged into and shifted the cultural and legal debates in the broader United States. In the writings under consideration in this project, poor whites, African-Americans and Native Americans crafted a rhetorical space to argue for an inclusive America based on their own terms and concepts.
In expanding the dissertation beyond a focus on Native Americans from Indian Territory, Foster hopes to provide a persuasive example of a new self-critical regionalism that could serve as a bridge between American Indian and American studies. Among the writers considered in the study are Will Rogers, John Joseph Mathews, Melvin Tolson, Ralph Ellison, Joy Harjo, Woody Guthrie, and Joe Brainard.
Foster has taught courses in American Indian Law and History, Contemporary American Indian Poetry, Indigenous Cinema, Experimental Native American Novels, The Expansion of Rights in America, Introduction to American Indian Studies, and the first ever “Study Abroad” course to an Indigenous Nation within the U.S. borders - Study Abroad in the Cherokee Nation, a cooperative project by the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Northeastern State University of Oklahoma, The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees. The Wikimedia Foundation in 2010 consulted with Dr. Foster over his use of Wikipedia in Freshmen level classes on Native American studies to create, edit, and revise entries on Native tribes, policies, and federal case law.